Stillwater River Trail & Marsh Island Brewing
The Stillwater River Trail wends easily over an old railroad grade (circa 1860s) along the Stillwater River from downtown Orono nearly to the islands and dam below the Stillwater Reservoir. When the sewer system (laid down under the railbed 50 years ago) needed repair in 2005, the town decided to create the walking trail, a three-mile out-and-back hike.
From the Bennoch Road trailhead, follow the placid Stillwater River west for a half-mile on private property before you reach the section owned by the Orono Land Trust, the pathway’s stewards. Mixed hardwoods and the occasional pine, then a grove of pretty paper birch, and finally some huge red oaks and impressive hemlocks punctuate the route. Near the Orono Water District building, retrace your steps to the parking area, but instead of turning up to it, continue along the river to Main Street and Marsh Island Brewing, which is directly across the road.
A few years back, Jim Swett, the owner of Swett’s Tire and Auto in Bangor, and his wife, Alice, who owns Hogan Road Deli & Convenience next door, took notice when one of their master mechanics, Clay Randall, began winning numerous homebrewing awards. That’s when the trio put their heads together and decided to open a brewery. An old storage space in Orono seemed like the perfect location, so they rehabilitated the place and got to work, with the help of the Swett’s son, Prentiss.
The comfortable Marsh Island Brewing tasting room features a long bar and table tops made of huge white pine slabs, and 11 taps pouring a variety of high-quality, traditional recipes and contemporary brews. Downrigger IPA was the first beer the brewery produced and is still the standard bearer, while the hop-forward Pulp Truck IPA and the Wooly Bugger Pils are regulars as well. If they’re on tap, the Lime Gose is a refreshing treat on a nice summer or fall day, but then, so is the Peanut Butter, You Who? Chocolate Milk Stout.
Hike: Stillwater River Trail, oronolandtrust.org
Brew: Marsh Island Brewing, marshislandbrewing.com
— Text & Photo: Carey Kish of Mt. Desert Island. Carey is an avid beer drinker, editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide, and author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast.